Designed to resemble a Castlevania NES cartridge, Alex Correa and Khaiam Dar’s most recent comic book is a strange assortment of undergraduate boredom and 1980s nostalgia. Divided into three chapters and a handful of “advertisements,” Smells Like Maturity hits its niche square on the head, but is never as funny as it wants to be.
Instead of chapters, Smells Like Maturity is divided into unrelated worlds, reminiscent of Super Mario’s world-level format, and allowing Correa and Dar to play with different themes without the chapters stepping on one another’s toes. This is mostly successful, but not always: World I depicts a hallucinating student in videogame paradise, World II depicts a hallucinating illustrator in comic book paradise, and World III depicts a girl who wants her friends to leave so that she can read in private. Each narrative is engaging enough, but the final one seems out of place, bound as it is in an NES cartridge.
More noticeable is the humour, which repeatedly asks the reader to remember the 1980s through a pair of 8-bit rose coloured glasses, but rarely ventures farther than that. It’s fun to see Game Genie and Tiger Electronics personified, but the vast majority of the humour merely references nostalgia without developing it in any way.
With the rise of James Rolfe’s “Angry Videogame Nerd” and Youtube networks like Normalboots, there is certainly a demand for the reconceptualization of ‘80s gaming culture. Correa and Dar are no doubt acting with these interests in mind, and can be commended under those standards. For someone standing outside of this niche-awareness, though, Smells Like Maturity never achieves what it sets out to do, and all the compounded references can be frustrating as a result. (Joel W. Vaughan)